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May 22, 2022 | Tom Ballard providing insights to help employers create high performing teams

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a series spotlighting one of the companies in the inaugural cohort of the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator.” The “Demo Day” is set for this Thursday {May 26} at the Student Union at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the public is invited. To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Furkan Eris poses a simple to ask but profound question that many employers are no doubt seeking answers to these days: “What makes for a high performing team and how do you improve a low performing team?” Providing insights that can help employers and other organizations address that challenge is at the heart of, one of the 10 starts-up participating in the inaugural cohort of the “Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator.”

For the native of Ann Arbor, MI and recent graduate of Boston University with his doctorate in Electrical Computer Engineering, is not his first start-up. Eris actually launched a FinTech venture while an undergraduate student. “It did not gain traction,” he says. After arriving in Boston, Eris met Burak Aksar, another Boston University doctoral student with a strong interest in machine learning/artificial intelligence (AI), and the two began having weekly discussions about problems they could solve.

“I grew-up in the era of ‘No Child Left Behind,’” he says of the act passed by Congress in 2001 to  close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that, as its name implies, no child is left behind. “It was a lose-lose scenario for all,” Eris (pictured right) believes.

After a number of their weekly discussions, Eris said that he and Aksar settled on EdTech as their focus and started developing a tool to assess how people learn best. Their efforts only intensified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused so many K-12 schools to shift quickly to virtual learning platforms.

“COVID was a real challenge for teachers,” he says, noting how difficult it was to monitor the physical body language of so many students on a computer monitor, regardless of size. The duo began developing mechanisms to extract data from the videos that would help teachers understand how to better assess the students who are engaged and those who are not.

“We developed 19 machine learning models with a total of 48 engagement metrics such as vocal emotion and energy level,” Eris says. “We can statistically infer what makes a person click and what turns them off.”

Along their journey, the two Co-Founders participated in other accelerators where they were frequently asked, “Can you apply this to corporate training programs?” So, they began considering how their AI-based approach could be applied to not only training programs but also meetings . . . from brainstorming sessions to sales calls and various other interactions.

“We decided to pivot,” Eris told us in a recent interview. “The EdTech sales cycle is too long.”

They built a new website that quickly led to 100 companies signing-up for information even before they have fully revised the platform to focus on businesses. The new website promotes the company this way: “ is a digital sentiment dashboard that aims to unleash everybody’s best potential. People are what make organizations thrive. We are here to empower people and elevate their engagement.”

Eris emphasizes a key point. “It’s not a monitoring tool but an improvement tool,” he says. “We want to make everything better for everyone. If people are happier in a meeting, they are more engaged and will perform better. If you are able to increase inclusion, performance will go up.”

One example of the type of insights that can provide its customers is understanding the best time of day to have team meetings based on the personality of the individuals who comprise the team.

Looking back since arriving in February, Eris says, “Our experience here has been fantastic.” He offered praise for the Techstars team – Managing Director Tricia Martinez, Program Director Hyder Alabed, and the sponsors (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee Valley Authority, and University of Tennessee). “I really enjoyed living in Knoxville,” he added, noting that he grew-up in a college town. His only wish was that could have done more pilots with local companies.

As far as the future, finalizing the platform and building integrations for big corporations like Cisco and Microsoft are where he and Aksar are focused.

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